Shinzo Abe seeks improved ties with South Korea, China

By Elizabeth Shim  |  Jan. 2, 2018 at 11:18 AM
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Jan. 2 (UPI) -- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says he wants to improve ties with South Korea and China, despite tensions over a 2015 "comfort woman" deal and disputes with Beijing over Chinese coast guard vessels.

Japanese television network NHK reported Tuesday Abe made the statement while addressing the North Korea nuclear issue.

Abe said he needs to make efforts to "normalize" relations with South Korea and China, while pressuring North Korea to abandon weapons development and address the issue of abducted Japanese citizens.

Japan is expected to host Chinese President Xi Jinping and South Korean President Moon Jae-in in a trilateral summit in the spring.

In 2017 bilateral ties with Seoul took a fall when Moon said the agreement with Japan was "seriously flawed" and made without proper consultation.

Anti-Korean sentiments may be on the rise in Japan, and a Japanese analyst recently said the Japanese ambassador to Seoul should be recalled.

But South Korea's foreign ministry, which brokered the deal in 2015 under former President Park Geun-hye, is taking a different approach to the deal than the previous administration.

Noh Kyu-duk, the foreign ministry spokesman, said Tuesday Seoul is seeking to revise a deal so that the "focus is on the victims," Yonhap reported.

Last week Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-hwa had said she would "definitely meet" with the former comfort women.

Activists have said the women were not consulted before the $8.9 million deal was made between Seoul and Tokyo.

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